Guttmacher study finds most women pay for their abortions

A recent study released by Guttmacher about abortion rates has sparked some attention. Here are a few highlights from the study:
From the Wall Street Journal:

About a third of the women surveyed were uninsured, a third were on Medicaid, and a third had private coverage. Overall, 57% of the women paid for their own abortions, while 13% got financial assistance such as help from a nonprofit, and 20% had procedures paid for by Medicaid, which covers abortion using state dollars in some states. According to previous Guttmacher research, the average amount paid for an abortion at 10 weeks’ gestation, the point by which most are performed, was $413 in 2006, though they can cost more if they come later in the pregnancy.
Of the women that did have private insurance coverage, 63% still paid for their own abortions, possibly reflecting that some plans didn’t cover the procedure. Rachel Jones, a senior research associate at Guttmacher, suggested that some women might have chose to pay themselves so the abortion wouldn’t be in their insurance records, or they mightn’t know their plans covered abortion.

This fact is important. Not because it means that we shouldn’t be fighting for health care coverage of abortion, but that our existing systems already fall short in the abortion care arena.
How many women weren’t able to access an abortion they wanted because of lack of funds? An report by the National Network of Abortion Funds estimates that as many as one in three low-income women who carried the pregnancies to term would have had an abortion if they’d had access to funding.


The study also highlighted the fact that a large percentage of women having abortions are low-income.

The proportion of abortion patients who were poor increased by almost 60%–from 27% in 2000 to 42% in 2008, according to “Characteristics of U.S. Abortion Patients, 2008,” by Rachel K. Jones, Lawrence B. Finer and Susheela Singh of the Guttmacher Institute. This shift is the most striking change in the profile of women obtaining abortions.

This is not surprising, considering that the number of women in poverty has increased, and it’s difficult to choose to parent when you don’t have the resources to support a child.
Lastly, Kay Steiger at Campus Progress pulled out this fact:

The Guttmacher study notes that nearly half of all women obtaining an abortion had been in a relationship for a year or longer with the man who had impregnated her. Although unmarried women make up the vast majority of those seeking an abortion (85 percent), 29 percent of those women were co-habitating with their partners.

This kind of research is key to abortion myth-busting and tailoring services and policy proposals to the actual realities of women seeking abortions, not the narrative that gets popularized by rhetoric and politics.

Join the Conversation

  • geek_girl

    My insurance covers this but I’d probably pay on my own anyway at a clinic that didn’t share records with my regular clinic…
    I’ve never really liked any of my doctors much, and “have you ever had an abortion” before giving me birth control for the first time made me kind of suspicious. I don’t want that on a permanent record in case I end up with a looney(er) doctor than most… you can never tell.
    PPH all the way.

  • supremepizza

    “According to previous Guttmacher research, the average amount paid for an abortion at 10 weeks’ gestation, the point by which most are performed, was $413 in 2006…A report…estimates that as many as one in three low-income women who carried the pregnancies to term would have had an abortion if they’d had access to funding.”
    If the average cost was just $413 I find it hard to believe that cost prevents women from having an abortion. A $413 abortion is a stretch for some people but its not even 5% of the cost of a birth.
    A birth–not to mention raising the kid–could easily average $9,000-$12,000. You’ll spend $400 on just a car seat, stroller, and a month of diapers. So the cost argument just doesn’t fit the facts.

  • KS

    My insurance doesn’t cover abortions. I had to pay $500 cash. My insurance didn’t cover birth control until a few years ago and then it was only the pill. Now they cover birth control like any prescription. For name brand prescriptions I pay 50%, for generics I think I pay 20%. And all prescription birth control is name brand. But it does not cover birth control at all that isn’t prescription based, like an IUD or depo-prevara. That is 100% out of pocket costs.
    Where does it happen in this country that clinics advertise “free abortions” like the dominoes pizza guy standing on the corner with the $5.99 take out special?
    During the health care debate I kept hearing over and over that federal funds can’t be used for abortion services but honestly where does that happen. What percentage of clinics use federal dollars to provide that service. Honestly, I would like to see that data. To my knowledge the only place you can get an abortion anywhere near where I live in Wyoming is at Planned Parenthood clinics in either Montana or Colorado. Utah is out as is Nebraska.

  • Chelsa

    I get where you’re coming from. But pulling $413 out of no where can often be an impossible task. You cannot get blood from a stone, and I know in my mother’s case, there’s no way in hell she could ever have cut corners, missed bills, beg borrowed or stolen enough to come up with that kind of money when I was a kid.
    I doubt the person who can’t scrounge up funds for an abortion buys a $400 stroller/car seat/month’s supply of diapers. Nope. They get second-hand, thrift, charity, or hand-me-down products, no doubt. Diapers can come from church charities or CPCs, food from social services, food banks or family/friends, and birthing costs covered by Medicaid, or at the very least, financed over a term (or put someone into bankruptcy for not paying a bill).
    Abortion costs have to be paid up front or you don’t get the procedure. Birthing costs… not so much.
    So yeah, the cost factor does prevent women from accessing abortion services.

  • paperispatient

    Carrying a pregnancy to term doesn’t mean that you can afford to pay for a hospital birth and all of the expenses that come after, though. Medical costs frequently drive people into serious debt.
    Also, is there ever financial assistance (from where, I don’t know) or funding for women who give birth, to help offset the costs? If so, that would help answer your question.

  • cattrack2

    How long do you think it takes for a low income person to spend $400 out-of-pocket caring for a baby? Because what you’re arguing is that it takes a really long time, while in fact its really a matter of months.
    Sure enough some things related to childbirth can be financed and some things can be picked up 2nd hand or for free. But even with this additional support a low income single woman would have an easier time scraping up $400 over 2 trimesters than scraping up the money to support a child for that same length of time. You’re arguing that a kid doesn’t even cost them $60 a month ($400/7 months) out-of-pocket…And this isn’t even counting time off from work.

  • Mechelle

    I think the other two repliers to your comments have shared my sentiments as well. I held off commenting, but I think I will go ahead and give you another perspective as well. After having a child, someone in poverty can always get government assistance (and if they cannot pay $400 for a medical procedure like an abortion then they are probably impoverished enough to get Medicaid so their medical expense is paid for…of course who is eligible varies by state), they can also buy used/low price items in the area of clothing or cribs, strollers,etc., they can receive help from other family members in monetary areas or by receiving used items, and other organizations may be able to help, but getting $400 for an abortion up front isn’t so easy. Some families won’t help pay for abortions because they don’t believe in it and of course you can’t get government assistance for abortions. It also isn’t an easy task to ask anyone for help with abortions because of the stigma that goes along with it, so many women may feel shame at the prospect of having to ask for help with one if they cannot afford one.

  • Lily A

    Also, is there ever financial assistance (from where, I don’t know) or funding for women who give birth, to help offset the costs? If so, that would help answer your question.
    In the U.S., yes! You get a tax credit if you have children. Additionally, low-income women who receive government assistance can increase their allotment of food stamps and payments if they have a child (although the additional amount allotted decreases with each birth, so the myth about welfare moms deliberately having kids so they can get more money is absurd). Additionally, in a lot of areas there are non-profits, private charities, and religious groups which can step in to help new moms access services and supplies needed for their children.
    None of these things make it easy to afford a kid if you are making minimum wage or less, but my understanding is that there are a lot more resources out there for women who decide to carry a pregnancy to term than those who choose abortion.

  • Lily A

    What percentage of clinics use federal dollars to provide that service.
    For the most part, they don’t, because there’s already a series of laws and riders which prohibit the use of a lot of different types of federal funds for abortion (for example, Medicaid, federal employees’ health insurance, military personnel, prisoners, and Indian Health Service clients — pretty much anybody whose health care would be subsidized federally). See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyde_Amendment

  • Chelsa

    Okay, in what state are women going to be able to have an abortion at 7 months? There’s like, A doctor in the states who performs abortions at this time.
    So chances are like, 49 in 50 that they’d have to come up with the fee, travel expenses and time off work.
    It seems like coming up with the 400 bucks makes more sense, but when you’re living hand-to-mouth, sometimes you’re not afforded the ability to look at things long term. All you have is right now, this very second, and looking ahead is something only some people are able to do.
    But the biggest point here is that you can renege on bills, have creditors after you, get welfare, go to food banks, get support from churchs, friends or family… but you cannot get an abortion without cash in hand. End of story. You can get food, baby supplies, clothes, money for rent, etc without cash in your hand. Therein lies the difference.
    Honestly, I would have loved to grow up in the world where 60/month isn’t that big of a deal. Or even reasonable. But I didn’t, so I can’t help but be a little offended that you think it’s some easy thing, or even a possible thing for all women. Because it’s not.

  • uberhausfrau

    the issue with the child tax credit is that it works like a coupon. you cant take a dollar off coupon to kroger and say “give me a dollar.” you have to buy the product it’s for. the child tax credit is a 2000dollar off coupon. if you happen not to pay taxes, it’s void.

  • uberhausfrau

    also, with a pregnancy/birth, you have several months to get your finances hammered out. lots of places like to have co-pays and other fees by the 6 month, and then you might get a bill afterwards for any additional fees incurred during labour and birth. you have 9+ months you scrounge enough supplies like clothes and the like.
    my first abortion was an entire month’s paycheck at my part-time retail job. and i had to get that money in the one week from the time i decided on the abortion to the day it happened. partner and i were still be subsidised by our parents and he had a decent job so it didnt cause too much financial hardship, but still.
    the second time, i fell in the 63% of women who had insurance coverage that paid for it out of pocket because, while my insurance covered elective abortion, i was unable to find a clinic or doctor who took my insurance who would perform the procedure, and i could not submit it for reembursement (i had “out of network” coverage) because the clinic didnt use the proper billing codes.

  • cattrack2

    “…so I can’t help but be a little offended that you think it’s some easy thing…”
    I wanted to progress the discussion not be brow beaten. My family’s from the hood, the projects if you care. My parents who worked for various community service organization themselves were frequently in the position of having to get poor women assistance for birth control & abortion. I never said it was easy. I was pointing out that the cost issue is over blown.
    Case in point: My niece has 5 kids by 4 different men. Even after I volunteered to pay for an abortion she declined. But you know what? She tried to kill herself a few months back because she didn’t know how she could come up with rent. But I’ll tell her that its easy to get welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, and renege on bills. Yeah, its a piece of cake…My point is that abortion is an emotionally fraught issue for poor women too while we like to think its just economics. If she gets pregnant again I guarantee you she’s having that baby even tho a dozen different family members would pay for an abortion.

  • Chelsa

    If that was your original point, it went well over my head. I don’t disagree with you that living on other people’s charity is not not easy. I grew up on welfare. On food banks. On churches and hand outs. It sucks. It was hard. I was constantly malnourished, housing was always precarious. I was in no way saying living like that is easy. It’s very, very, very hard.
    I was only saying, coming up with cash, actual money, is most definitely a barrier. Not trying to erase experiences like your nieces, or I’m sure hundreds of other women across the globe.
    No money, no abortion.
    No food: steal it, beg for it, get some from various charity orgs, sign up for food stamps.
    That’s my only point. There’s way more methods of obtaining the “necessities of life” than abortion funding when you’re broke. Not that kids cost less than $60/month.

  • paperispatient

    my understanding is that there are a lot more resources out there for women who decide to carry a pregnancy to term than those who choose abortion.
    Thanks for the info! You confirmed exactly what I was thinking.

  • hunter2117

    I can understand the financial strain that can come with bringing a newborn child into this world. I can also see where making it financially impossible for some to afford an abortion is an effective way of taking away their choice. However, to say that through living paycheck-to-paycheck that it is hard to see the longterm should not excuse anyone from not understanding that having unprotected sex with no birth control could result in pregnancy. The biggest issue I see here is no proper sex education. Some people have commented that the price of an abortion isn’t at all that expensive. However, I believe that $400 can be an insurmountable sum for some, but there are various forms of birth control which cost less than half that sum. To say its too expensive to have abortions neglects that it is not as nearly as expensive when people are irresponsible not just with their lives, but the lives of their unborn children.

  • uberhausfrau

    However, to say that through living paycheck-to-paycheck that it is hard to see the long term should not excuse anyone from not understanding that having unprotected sex with no birth control could result in pregnancy.
    yes, everyone know a ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. but, statistics show that many women seeking abortions were using some form of birth control when they got pregnant.
    when people are irresponsible not just with their lives, but the lives of their unborn children.
    having an abortion is not being “irresponsible.”